By VIRGINIA BIXBY
On Friday, Sept. 9, Senator Mark Warner visited the University of Mary Washington to speak to political science and sociology students about the economy, mostly regarding the nature of work and wealth. The event was held in Monroe Hall Room 116 at 1 p.m. and was hosted by Dr. Eric Bonds.
Senator Warner spoke to Bonds’ Intro To Sociology class. Dr. Stephen Farnsworth, political science and international affairs professor, handled the logistics of Senator Warner’s visit, including organizing the timing and location of the event with the senator’s staff.
“We try to get political figures on campus when we can,” Farnsworth said, who in the past has helped organize visits from Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Rob Wittman.
“I find it a great experience for students to see politicians firsthand. When you learn about politics through the media, you are only going to get a little snippet here and there of what the reporter chooses to say, so these kinds of opportunities to ask questions of elected officials are really valuable,” Farnsworth said.
Farnsworth said that the University had been trying to schedule a visit from Senator Warner in the Spring 2016 semester but decided the timing would be poor for students since it would occur during the time used for preparing for finals. Therefore, the visit was postponed to the Fall 2016 semester to afford more students the opportunity to attend the discussion. However, plans for this fall’s visit were finalized at the last minute.
Farnsworth and his colleagues had to determine how to host the event when it was scheduled at a time when many students were in classes. The best apparent solution was to integrate the visit into one of Dr. Bonds’ class meetings, mostly due to the compatibility of the time frame with Warner’s schedule and the size of the location. Dr. Bonds asked his students if they would be interested in hosting the event, and the majority of the students voted in favor of bringing Senator Warner in to speak.
While questions from students about issues like the presidential election and individuals such as Donald Trump or Edward Snowden came up, Warner’s discussion with students focused on the nature of work and of wealth. Many students brought up topics especially relevant to today’s youth, such as affordability of higher education.
Freshman Joey Leclaire, who attended the event with other students from his U.S. Elections and Campaigns FSEM, said that he found Warner’s discussion of the economy in relation to the current college generation enlightening.
“He talked about how college students and people who are just now getting into the workforce are going to have to deal with the overwhelming debt,” Leclaire said. “He discussed investing more money in trust funds to help beat down the debt, and also discussed how we need to bring back jobs to the continental United States instead of outsourcing to other countries.”
Freshman Alexandra Cooper, also a student in the U.S. Elections and Campaigns FSEM, was impressed by the senator’s willingness to answer a full range of questions from students.
“He seems to listen to what both parties say and knows how to compromise when that is necessary,” Cooper said. “The students asked some tough questions about issues they are concerned about, and he answered all of them. He gave me a lot to think about in terms of the future of Virginia and of the U.S.”
UMW students can look forward to another political event featuring elected officials on campus at the congressional debate being held on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium.